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Title: Divergent impacts of crop diversity on caloric and economic yield stability

Food security and the agricultural economy are both dependent on the temporal stability of crop yields. To this end, increasing crop diversity has been suggested as a means to stabilize agricultural yields amidst an ongoing decrease in cropping system diversity across the world. Although diversity confers stability in many natural ecosystems, in agricultural systems the relationship between crop diversity and yield stability is not yet well resolved across spatial scales. Here, we leveraged crop area, production, and price data from 1981 to 2020 to assess the relationship between crop diversity and the stability of both economic and caloric yields at the state level within the USA. We found that, after controlling for climatic instability and differences in irrigated area, crop diversity was positively associated with economic yield stability but negatively associated with caloric yield stability. Further, we found that crops with a propensity for increasing economic yield stability but reducing caloric yield stability were often found in the most diverse states. We propose that price responses to changes in production for high-value crops underly the positive relationship between diversity and economic yield stability. In contrast, spatial concentration of calorie-dense crops in low-diversity states contributes to the negative relationship between diversity and caloric yield stability. Our results suggest that the relationship between crop diversity and yield stability is not universal, but instead dependent on the spatial scale in question and the stability metric of interest.

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Publisher / Repository:
IOP Publishing
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Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Article No. 124015
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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